The history of small towns is often well-known to its residents, but sometimes a new chapter is added by a newcomer who sees that history with fresh eyes. Such is the case for Fallbrook and Lauren Kelly-Hill, who moved here in 2012.
Originally from Texas, Kelly-Hill lived in Orange County for several years before marrying her husband, LtCol Curtis Hill. Because he is in the Marine Corps, the couple has moved around the country a few times.
A history buff, Kelly-Hill would visit the local historical society in each new town to dive into its history. This last move back to California was no different.
“The sign at the edge of town coaxing us to Find Fallbrook had been realized, as we found our forever home,” she said.
Visiting the Fallbrook Historical Society and reading a variety of materials, she found discrepancies in the significance of Fall Brook, Penn.
“My love for research drove me to find documented facts. I would start at the beginning. While searching for documented history on the supposed connection between Fall Brook, Penn. and Fallbrook, Calif., I came across a site for the Fall Brook Railway [www.fallbrookrailway.com] that was associated with the Magee family’s Fall Brook coal mining town in Tioga County, Penn.,” she explained.
She contacted the website’s creator, Daniel Magee Beach, III, and he helped her figure out what the connection was between the two towns. The Magee family built and owned the Pennsylvania mining town of Fall Brook in 1860, which was after Vital Reche (an early settler of the area that became Fallbrook) and his wife Amelia Magee Reche had moved to Santa Clara.
Kelly-Hill found out that Vital and Amelia went back to the east coast by 1867, and according to many writings, invested in the Fall Brook Coal Company. Two years later Amelia’s uncle, John Magee, who established the town, hotel and coal mine, suddenly died. His son Duncan (Amelia’s cousin) took over, but died shortly after that.
Immediately following their deaths, Vital was diagnosed with cancer, so he and Amelia returned to a milder climate in the Temecula/Pala area of California where his brother Anthony was living. Vital’s condition improved and he lived until 1894.
Kelly-Hill said, “During our email correspondence, all of this talk of the Reche family jarred something in Dan’s memory. He recalled having an old tin box from his great-grandfather’s estate which had been passed down to him, tucked away in a closet for more than 30 years.”
Beach’s great-grandfather was married to Angelica Church Magee, Amelia Reche’s sister, and was the executor for the estate of John Magee.
When Beach was sorting through the contents of the box, he found an old promissory note which contained the live signatures of Vital and Amelia Reche.
Kelly-Hill said, “As a kind gesture for my own collection, he mailed them to me from his home in Florida. When they arrived, I was beyond thrilled at the sight of this 1892 document.”
The note was delivered on Sept. 25, 2015. Then, on Feb. 10, she received an email from Beach in which he told her he had found another document in the tin box: the original 1883 land grant patent Homestead Certificate for Vital C. Reche.
“I was floored,” she said, “I believed this was the most significant document for Fallbrook, ever. I finally had a base from which to corroborate so many of the writings in the Fallbrook Historical Society. My research paid off. All this time, a significant California document had been in a closet on the East Coast.”
They do not know if the certificate had been collateral for the promissory note or some other financial dealing, but Beach sent her the document and asked if she would present it to the historical society, as he felt the Homestead Certificate needed to be in Fallbrook.
However, they found out that the historical society does not have a physical way to preserve and protect this most important document. So, Beach suggested that Kelly-Hill have a copy of the certificate professionally framed to present to the Fallbrook Historical Society.
In the meantime, Kelly-Hill and her husband purchased a fire-rated safe in which to keep the original documents. On May 29, she presented the framed copy of original Homestead Certificate on behalf of Dan Beach to the Fallbrook Historical Society. It was gladly accepted by docent coordinator Scott Atkins who commented, “If someone was going to start a historical society, this would certainly be the first item to build from. Wow, what a find!”
Finding the Homestead Certificate “is like finding the birth certificate of Fallbrook,” Kelly-Hill said.
In her experience, “members of historical societies often balk at the tech-crazed world of today which seems to drown out the past we love so much. But I would suggest that it is technology – the internet – which can bridge the past, even supply missing pieces to history’s puzzle.”
“Oral history from generations of local families remains the best way to fill in the blanks,” added Kelly-Hill. “It gives us a baseline to start our research for physical documentation. It can even bring historical documents home.”
The framed copy of the Homestead Certificate can be seen at the Fallbrook Historical Society Museum, 1730 South Hill Avenue, at Rockycrest Road, which is open Thursday and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.